Album Reviews: Taylor Swift, Jessy Lanza, Liza Anne
Taylor Swift — Folklore (West Reading, PA)
Given Taylor Swift’s constant ability to morph her sound every few years and still make great music, it wasn’t a total shock that her shift away from overt pop stuck the landing. With a little more lyrical grit and a more blended sense of genre, this is Swift’s most experimental record and a fun show of her ability to keep growing. The simple personal touches to “The 1” help us relate to Swift as a person rather than a star, as the layers of orchestration and drum-machines flesh out the coldness of her story. Bon Iver sheds his recent electronic warping for a mystifying duet that feels like a folksy spin on a “A Star is Born” b-side, to the point it’s hard to hold back the tears hearing their stories merge. Amongst Swift’s many breakup songs, “Illicit Affairs” feels the most dreary and bleak, but also honest, with Swift reflecting on the drug-like power of an affair. It’s a far-cry from her country days, but “Betty” shows how far her storytelling has come, as the heartbreak and since of emotional depth is so much richer here, and one that could make anyone smile.
Land of Talk — Indistinct Conversations (Montreal/Toronto)
The soundscapes Elizabeth Powell is able to craft with her band have always been mesmerizing, so her new record is a true trip. Between the melodic wallops she can deliver and the sheer scale of her productions, this record can often feel huge. Even just the wave-like delivery of “Diaphanous” overtakes you, as its little breaks in charge make the guitars feel all the louder. Her more pop-fuelled chug on “Weight of That Weekend” lets her vocals gain an ethereal quality and the open space in the song really lets the guitars dance. Every cascading section of building drums or triumphant band-hits lets “Footnotes” feel like a perfect turning point in the record, with Powell really finding a climactic fury in this song’s final bridge. With a lot of her band absent on “Now You Want to Love in the Light” the intimacy in its lyrics shine to really make it feel like she wants answers from you.
Jessy Lanza — All the Time (Hamilton)
Mixing a disco-meets-Madonna vocal style with a lush blend of modern electronics, Jessy Lanza has been a fascinating gem of Canada’s music scene. As her sound gains a sheen and depth beyond simple dance-pop, Lanza finds even more direction to her voice. “Anyone Around” is a slow-burning exploration, with Lanza slipping into her choruses as she searches for friendly signs in a dark production. While “Face” can feel like an all-too-familiar song as it starts, it’s the startlingly sparse vocal breaks that Lanza leaves her that help it stand out. The intense rhythm and seductive synths of “Ice Creamy” create a relaxing flow that lets the song lull you down no matter your mood. She hits her greatest dance high here on “Over and Over” with the effortless groove, and a glistening electronic production that straddles 80’s nostalgia and wondrous sense of futuristic hope.
Antonio Adolfo — Bruma (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil)
As a celebration of Milton Nascimento, Antonio Adolfo is able to let his performances sing on this record. The swerving sax of “Fe Cega Faca Amolada” are like the string of a delicate tapestry, often surprising but always tasteful. Though “Outoubro” is a more sombre piece, the trumpets are able to add enough colour around the building chords to keep the song tense more often than not. There’s more glamour to “Encontros E Despedidas” as it glides with a lounge-tinged jazz charm. This all mixes beautifully in the rising and tumbling “Caxanga” which uses its solos to ramp up and rein in the overall explosion of the band.
Liza Anne — Bad Vacation (Saint Simons Island, Georgia/Nashville)
A perfect knife through the worlds of pop and alt-pop, Liza Anne’s music is constantly infectious with just the write sense of wail behind the hooks. With endless little details littered around her latest release, the explosion of flavour feel is like an acoustic Everlasting Gobstopper. There’s so much tone-jumping and overall build on the sound of “Bad Vacation” that you can easily forget you’re still listening to a three-minute track. She’s not afraid to just shuffle into something smooth on “Terrible Discovery” too, where her knack for groove and beats comes out in a fun she usually reserves for growl. A shift to 90s-style guitar rock is just as refreshing on “Bummer Days” as Anne’s frustration slowly bleeds into the chaotic production. And harmonies add a subtle edge to the neon of “Desire” to allow its fire of a sound into a potent and radiant song.